Language of the Trees – 1

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36 thoughts on “Language of the Trees – 1”

  1. Me too. This will be within me for a long time. I feel like a tree in your grove Ben. A grove where the other big trees go to be heard loved for who they are and safe and feel part of something big.

  2. 🙂 yes. trees. As always, this post is exactly what I need today.

    I wear a necklace with a tree on it because I have a “thing” for trees. A student asked me yesterday: “Does that necklace stand for tree hugger?” “I don’t know. I love trees, so maybe yes.” Around here “tree hugger” is not a compliment. I don’t care. I will always be a tree hugger.

    Now, time for me to dig in to this. I am finding it difficult in one group. Really difficult. Good thing I get to try again each day. But I honestly don’t know how to create this safety in this one group of extremely fearful individuals. I’m feeling right now that I need to separate the group for a bit to just get some space and get out of the reactive pattern.

    Thank you for this. I will read it again just before they come in 🙂

    1. So I wimped out. Did not feel like dealing with them so we went to the library and I made them do Sr. Wooly nuggets. I don’t know who the ringleader is. There are like 2-3 different groups of blatantly non-interested kids. Well, there is one major player who is like a 4 year old in an adult body (i.e., full on temper tantrums and storming out of class). Then there is a small group of very interested kids but they are shut down bc of the social dynamics (the 2-3 other groups are “honor roll” kids who’re there just for the grade but they are the “power broker” kids in the school). They are all complaining because “I need my grade to be higher” “What do I need to do to make up that competency?” Umm…shut the f#$% up? Interpersonal skills rubric. It may just have to shake out until next week when report cards are issued. I have been entering numberZ like mad in the machine, so they know their grades, and I know that the only “comprehensible input” for many of them is the numberZ…but maybe it is not real enough yet, so …? Like literally they ask about the grade, I explain about listening skills, point to the rubric, etc. and then they just keep on talking. And I feed the number into the system. And then they ask again the next day.

      I’m just tired though, so need something to occupy them so that I don’t have to waste my energy. And it can’t involve extra work for me. Or paper. So…??? might just give them something like read 4 chapter books by the end of the year.” Just done. Stick a fork in me.

      1. Warning bad rant:

        This description jen is supreme importance to the interests of every single person in our group. This situaion is no joke. This, what you describe there about that class and those entitled little shits (made so by the patterning they have received from all their teachers except you who is the only one who is challenging them on their decorum, so necessary in language classes), makes me crazy. Because I have been there, (who in our group hasn’t?) so many times and I have gone to sleep hoping for a full night’s sleep on so many occasions over so many years only to be awoken at 2:00 a.m. thinking of one of those kids and it makes me doubt the sanctity of life! What is there that could be mentally more disturbing than a class like the one you describe? And it’s all under the radar, of course, the worst kind of control and manipulation by students of teachers. And it’s too late to blow those groups up. What a year it has been for you jen! I find it important that they are not responding to the rubric. This means that it isn’t working. But you need it. To keep them in line. But I have always (do you remember when we developed it, those years with Annick and Robert tinkering?) feared that jGR has an inherent flaw in certain settings. They will not be broken by you. They have made you the weird one. They and the other wuss teachers who have enabled them to think that they are “all that” in that school are delusional. I aim my wrath on those other teachers who have created these kids. Take them somewhere else, anywhere else, and see if they survive. They will not. Their entire system is based on corrupt inside trading in the school over years. They are freakish. All they do is based on the cult of personality and if you were to remove them from each other they would collapse, their house of cards group act would crumble and you could move in and do some real teaching. But now rounding the last curve into April they are taking their cult of corruption and turning you into the bad guy. And all you want to do is teach them civility. Well I agree with your solution. Turn from them. Turn away. Make them read read read. Stop giving them your good stuff, they don’t deserve it. They should get nothing from you, including the time you take out of your day to rate them with jGR. They have beat you at the rubric you invented. So the next move for me would be to go back and find every stalling tactic/bail out strategy including mega-dictee that we have ever discussed here and slam them with useless activities and count every little mistake and rip them all with C’s on the year and manipulate the grades in favor of their classmate victims but stop trying to reach the good ones you cannot. The groups of three and four have won. It’s too close to the finish line to make up the gap. Just don’t teach them next year if you can. Sorry. I got into a rant there. Those kids are the same kids who will grow up to become users and haters as adults. You can’t know the results of your struggle with that class, but based on own mentally bloody experience with those kinds of kids, I know that where you feel broken in the short run now up to June, so correspondingly this experience will launch you over the long run to heights unknown if you can take it. This is the kind of discussion that people who aren’t teachers could never understand. Hugs to you dear jen. It’s been quite a year for you.

        1. Yeah today was a doozy. Thank you soooooo much for listening. And as I sit here just barely having stopped crying because of a totally other weird interchange in the parking lot as I left school (very odd shit with 2 colleagues one of whom said some upsetting things about me)…I said to myself “I have to remember this feeling when I am with the students because I am upset by something someone said about me. And it’s not about me even though it punched my in the gut and made me cry. And I have to work very hard to let it go, and I can, but the middle school kids don’t have the tools and the years on this planet, so when they are in a funk bc of what someone said…it is REAL and they don’t know how to let it go!

          Sorry to digress. I appreciate the validation of my hunch to just let go of them. Totally fine and joyful to do that. Because I need joy in my day. My question is, for the sweet kids who want to play…how can I still interact with them? My idea is to have the robots do robot things and then have the “circle of trust” do human things. I have checked with the guy who runs the VLACS room (for kids who are taking online classes) and he said I could send them up there, but prob only 1-2 x week. There are 5-6 kids who are really showing up every day and I would hate to punish them with robot things. They want to engage! They read fun things on line and invite me to do kooky Buzzfeed quizzes and eagerly show me photos of Cristiano Ronaldo and we laugh while the others grind away asking how many points….blah blah blah. I guess it’s kind of like the Bryce alternative plan, but I really don’t have the energy to preview what I will make them do, assign points, etc. write 7 more rubrics. It needs to be simple. I refuse to work more for them.

          1. “I refuse to work more for them.”

            Good for you. You deserve better.

            For the kids who “want to play,” Ben posted early this year on an “inside circle” (I’m imaging two semi-circle rows, one inside, one outside, but I’ve never had to try this). Start with everyone in the outside circle, then move kids closer as you notice they are following the rubric. I guess it depends on age and attitude, but maybe reward them with proximity (a nice note home would feel good too). It may be a matter of self-preservation; just keep them physically away from you and silent and stick to “refusing to work more for them” because they are toxic.

          2. I hate to say this, because we don’t want to use writing as punishment, but maybe kids in the outside circle should do the “robot” thing-which for me would be copying from the projector while I type out parts of the story. Kids who are in the inner circle don’t have to copy or write, they aren’t blurting and they’re dictating the story to you, so they can just sit pretty and join in your fun.

            It also keeps the turds in the outside row busy enough that they might shut it long enough for you to find something to praise them for/ invite them to your party. But be prepared to send them right back to the outside.

            Once again, writing as punishment is generally a bad idea, but it may help and if not it saves you time and copy paper making them crap worksheets. At this point, it’s all about you and the five who want to play.

          3. That is what I was envisioning. The inner and outer circle. I like the idea to make the turds on the outside write. I do not see that as punishment really, just a different way to participate. A way that GETS THE OUT OF JEN’s BEAUTIFUL HAIR!
            I think mega-dictĂ©e would be good. And maybe open-book quizzes. Not free-flowing fun CI though, I learned the hard way myself that you can’t do this work with a group that is not giving at least SOME of the love back. My eighth graders are finally able to do stories, and I am really proud of them, but I am so glad I heeded the advice I got in fall, to just stop fighting. I would be INSANE (OK, insaner than I already am) if I had continued to struggle with them all year.
            The four year old in a teen’s body…that is just a special case. Does this kid have any behavior support or a behavior plan? Sounds serious.
            jen I am feeling for you. Plus this crap with a backbiting colleague. You deserve a throne and crown and a box of chocolates. I hope that tomorrow is a much better day.

          4. I agree in principle with Claire and Tina, but jen I do feel that the very physical presence of those kids in the classroom will keep you from reaching those other kids.

            I feel that your mental health right now, after a long, tough year, is more important than reaching those good kids who actually do get what you are doing.

            Thus, I like the “get the shits out of the room” option first and then if I were you in July I would make lots of visits to the class lists in the guidance offices for next year to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

            Jen, keep in mind – we are not talking here about presenting people (who don’t want to hear it) with a new way of teaching. Rather, we are talking about presenting them with a new way of being. This will strongly affect how they react.

            I want politics far from our discussion here (so ugly on every level) on the blog but I will allow myself to say that I see a parallel between those who oppose our work – which is more about blending mind and heart in the classroom – and the Trump campaign.

            He represents a dying breed of white males who don’t want to give America over to what it really is becoming, a truer democracy than the first one in 1776, one made up of completely different people of all races and types and descriptions and backgrounds and sexual preferences and political ideas. I see those kids in your classroom as little Trumps and Trumpets not wanting to let the other instruments in the orchestra play, trying to drown them out with their brass. (Man that was a horrible metaphor, Ben!)

            You are a threat to them. So they fight you and even the teachers who have made them what they are (users and haters) take gut jabs at you in parking lots. They are not even aware of their collusion. It’s a mind fuck on a massive level and is happening all over the country and we get to rub shoulders with them in our buildings every day aren’t we lucky.

            When you cry in a parking lot outside of a school in New Hampshire, we cry with you. When they punch you in the stomach, they punch us. We will not be defeated. Those people will have no dominion over us.

            But yeah, cut that class loose. I feel another rant coming on here so better stop.

          5. “Man that was a horrible metaphor, Ben!” No, that was a combo metaphor/pun about trumpet people who feel the need to be louder than other people to make themselves less insecure; bonus points for bringing up/knocking down Trump.

            I agree Jen is being targeted because her instruction is spot-on. They want to control Jen because she’s got it together.

            Absolutely kick out whoever you can. Send the message that they are out of control not you. They have to go, not Jen’s awesome TCI.

            Jen said she was limited in number of kids she could kick out, so I was trying to think up alternatives. But Ben’s “get rid of them” approach is best.

          6. Thank you all! It is so helpful to feel the community here.

            My brilliant idea of separating them out, alas, is not possible. The librarian freaked out and said I can’t just send people in there unaccompanied. I will try to do that 1x week or 2x if I can maybe in the other room if the guy lets me.

            Since I am out of steam I am going to feed them worksheets until I recover some energy. Maybe Monday. I don’t even have energy for a dictee, so am giving them Sr. Wooly, Martina Bex stuff, etc. I hate to waste all that paper, but it will keep them occupied for 80 mins. Or maybe 40. Might just give them study hall for the 2nd half.


          7. Annemarie Orth

            jen, Good for you. A few years ago I had a class that sounds a lot like yours and I had to completely stop doing stories. I literally created a fat grammar packet for each kid and that’s what they worked on for about 2 months.

          8. That’s what saved me in my eighth grade class from heck. Listen to Ben. Put your oxygen mask on. The profession needs you too much.

          9. And jen there is always a thought “I failed”. It ties into the myth of the super teacher who can handle large groups of 35 with a five minute break five times daily. I bought that for my career. I did it. And if I screwed up under great pressure I felt like somehow it still was my mistake. That’s the lot of teachers. I took stress that I wouldn’t put on a camel in a sandstorm. I have learned so much. Feeling like I really want to find the right words to say here to help you realize you didn’t fail, but the system did. Why did the system fail? It produced those brats, didn’t it?

          10. Like many if not all of us here, Jen, I’ve been in your shoes. I even quit my first job because I did not understand how to handle the stress and anxiety. If you can’t make the situation better, you can devote yourself to yourself. Show yourself what a committed, loving adult does in a terrible situation that she cannot change. Every day, day after day, be yourself. Love yourself. Love God or whatever divine force is moving through you. Hold the hope for change, but just do every day for you. Better times are coming. Big love to you. And if you have a restorative justice room in your school, call those people and see if they might do some circles with parts or all of your class.

    1. Hey Diane I will see you guys at Valor in June, right? Can’t wait! Boy have I got some new ideas fresh from India! If I finish the new book on this new stuff in time I will send it and then you can share it with Lynette and everybody else.

      On the Ents. Finally, we find someone who speaks TOO slow. I knew there had do be someone.

      1. You will? Very good. I am not always aware of what’s going to happen at Valor. We finish school like June 2 or 3 though. Oh – I bet I do know. Are you going to be at the training days that Lynnette & Sabrina have set up? That’s a bit later, after school is out. Which reminds me that I should share info about that training with the Chinese teacher network in CO.

        I’ll be at iFLT as well (so will Lynnette & 2 others from my school). This week I was invited to be an apprentice coach & I’m excited about that. Also doing 2 presentations mostly applicable to Chinese (their idea; I’d suggested something else thinking Chinese was too specific; also excited about it).

        I love the Ents. Elves called them into having language, and then they made it a long, slow, thing to enjoy for its own sake. They seemed silly, but really weren’t. They didn’t know how powerful they were. They got caught up looking at and talking with trees and their wives walked off in the neglect. They’re a bit like I think Tolkien himself might have preferred to live. I think Tolkien was an INFP.

          1. Meanwhile, I’m resisting the urge to tell you how I knew that you are, and what I am (ok, INFP mostly w/ some INFJ), and go on to a long discussion of personality types. But I do think accepting one’s tendencies in personality help us find our fit with how we teach & style, what works for us, what stresses us, and how much we feel a need to plan or not plan class content.

          2. Heehee. I’ll write to you. No embarrassments — I just know those types quite well, and observe. It’s not even consciously done usually.

          3. What a fun “coincidence” that yesterday in “that class” when we were in the library one of the super sweet girls was looking at those during a break. Hers was INFJ and I was like “omg! me too! well, sometimes it turns out INFP…”

            I have not thought about the Myers Briggs in YEARS and this was just yesterday and then I saw this thread…hmmmmm.

          4. Steven Ordiano

            INFP here with funky spurts of E. AND I agree to align strategies/training with teaching personality. What an awesome idea.

  3. Yeah how many teachers are big on empathy? What percentage are concrete sequential deliverers of instructional services and think in terms of grading students (read judging students, which is a form of psychological abuse)?

    This work with CI requires human reciprocal back and forth interaction. It’s a move to the heart. People in this profession, in the world right now, are being forced to open up their hearts to others. We’re part of it.

    Laurie has been saying it all along and it’s true. We are learning how to love. CI is about love. This needs to be said.

    1. Annemarie Orth

      I think it’s important to note the difference between LOVING our students and coddling our students. I am in search of a quotation by the Brazilian educator Paulo Freire about this…when I find it I will post. It has to do with empowering students to show we care about them, and teaching with CI allows us to do just that.

      1. I hope you find that quote, Annemarie. One of my big learning curves is how to be loving and tough. The sword that cuts clean and firm. The biggest love there is.

        1. Hi Angie,
          I know that the quotation comes from Freire’s book, “Teachers as Cultural Workers: Letters to Those Who Dare Teach.” Just the title is inspiring:) My brother gave it to me 15 years ago and told him it was the most important book he’s read about education. It;s pretty hard to find in a book store, you could probably order it online.

          Loving and tough. That’s exactly what we need to be-it can be such a balancing act especially in the beginning with students. I want to set my expectations high and be tough but I don’t want to dampen their enthusiasm or scare them (because I think I do this sometimes.) I have learned to never apologize to my students for being tough with them…I’ve had to stop myself from saying, “I’m sorry but…” I learned from Susie Gross how to be tough and loving at the same time. When I started doing this, I actually felt a shift in how I perceive my students-I started to like them no matter what.

          I hope you are enjoying teaching this year!

          1. I’m getting there! Often enjoying it! And seeing the way it is getting and will get better and better. Also, often tired. Very tired. Not while I’m teaching though, but after. Sometimes discouraged. Excited about the ways I am growing.

          2. That little back-and-forth between Angie and Annemarie reminds me of two things in particular I’ve picked up here: an interview with Brene Brown on boundaries that I think Jen shared recently, and something from The Art of War that Bryce wrote years ago and recently expanded on. It sure is a delicate balance, unique with every group, because we are put in a position where we have to control the environment (to a great extent, while protecting ourselves) so that input is deliverable. Thanks for the book suggestion.

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